PART 3: YPK leaders identify some areas that need emphasis

YPK(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the third article in a three-part series discussing the Knoxville community through the eyes of three leaders of an organization named Young Professionals of Knoxville.)

By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, Pershing Yoakley & Associates, P.C.

There are those who love to criticize, then there are those who offer constructive input and a desire to contribute to the solution. The three leaders of Young Professionals of Knoxville (YPK) with whom we talked are clearly part of the “let’s identify it and fix it” group.

“We’re moving in the right direction, but we need to move faster,” Jim LaPinska says. He’s YPK’s President who is a Financial Advisor and Field Director for Northwestern Mutual Financial Network.

“The things that slow Knoxville down are some of its very assets, starting with its small town feel,” observes Alan Moore, YPK’s Treasurer and a Vice President and Trust Officer for First Tennessee Bank.

“What is Knoxville’s brand,” asks Danielle Benson, YPK’s Immediate Past President who is Director of Training for the Alliance for Better Non-Profits.

As they talked and we mostly listened, the passion for the Knoxville community was clearly visible. So, too, was the fact that they could offer informed observations based on living in other communities.

Benson talked about the lack of an available pool of eligible young professionals for unmarried individuals.

“If you are single in Knoxville, I don’t have an answer,” she said. “We don’t have a nightlife. We don’t have entertainment venues like we did in Denver.”

Moore, who lived in St. Louis for a year, talked about the importance of parks and green space, referencing that city’s 1,293-acre Forest Park, nearly twice the size of New York City’s infamous Central Park.

All three made a point about collaboration around key issues like a more robust public transportation system.

On the matter of working together, Benson asked, “Why dilute our resources by doing separate initiatives? It’s something bigger than just yourself.”

She was clearly referencing challenges that others have discussed for years.

Benson’s self-described soapbox is greater knowledge about available positions that would help attract and/or retain more young professionals.

“People in this town do not post jobs,” she said. “This hampers young professionals coming to Knoxville who do not have networks, particularly minorities.”

To help address the deficiency, YPK started a “Job Board” for its members.

Moore and LaPinska offered two observations about the importance of employers understanding the nature of Millennials.

“Our generation likes freedom . . . freedom and flexibility,” Moore said.

“People will go above and beyond what they would normally do if they believe they are heard and appreciated.” LaPinska added.

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